Create Long-Lasting & Rewarding Relationships
The Importance of Paying Attention
Why is giving attention more important than getting it and how do you give it effectively?
Someone calls out, “ATTENTIONNNNNNN, snap to it.” What do you think?
I immediately think of a military drill sergeant. It evokes a visual picture of a stern-looking sergeant nose-to-nose with a recruit — Clint Eastwood style, with his no-nonsense glare!
There are two sides to the idea of attention. One is receiving attention by deserving or demanding it. The other is giving attention to people, places, things, and ideas.
Giving attention is the focus of this post.
Everyday life for most of us is not like facing a drill sergeant. Yes, sometimes people politely ask for your attention. And occasionally someone yells at us for attention. Asking for (or demanding) others pay attention to us is generally not a good idea. It often backfires.
But paying attention — giving it to others — is a very effective way to grow. It’s also hard.
The key is to be genuinely interested in others and the world around you. Is it easy to get distracted? Definitely! For me, paying attention is a learned skill. Even if it’s something you’re working on, when you’re giving attention genuinely, people can sense it.
But there is more to it than just listening.
6 Ways to Genuinely Pay Attention
Here are some simple things that I know make a big difference in how you hear and see things and how much you will connect with those around you.
1. Learn Their Name
Learn their name and use it often in the conversation. Many people say to me they are not good with names. Research shows that one of the things people respond to deeply is the sound of their name. If you can’t remember their name ask them again and again if you have to. And then repeat it quickly. Their name will stick with you.
2. Don’t Fidget
Don’t fidget. Be calm and definitely don’t get up and walk around. Don’t look at your phone. Focus on the person you are talking with. "Be still" also pertains to looking at nature or focusing on a task.
3. Look Into Their Eyes
Look into their eyes. This can be more difficult than it sounds. Most people I have found find it uncomfortable. The eyes are the gateway to the soul. If you do this regularly, you will learn to read people’s eyes and see much more. Practice will also help you feel more relaxed and comfortable with doing it.
4. Don’t Interrupt the Person Talking
Don’t interrupt the person talking. Yikes. I am guilty of that too often. Don’t be afraid of silence. Let them go until you know they are finished. Then ask a question.
5. Don’t Give Advice
Don’t give advice. Unasked for advice does one's soul great harm. You are not there to change them. You are there to understand them and care about them. If people find someone to listen to them genuinely, they will ask for advice when they want it, and they will be much more likely to heed your wisdom.
6. Repeat What You Heard
Repeat back to them what you have heard as close to word for word as you are able.
These points are a challenge for me. I have experienced very few people who are good at all of them.
However, learning to use them will help you create long-lasting and rewarding relationships. Try it with your family. Try it with your friends. Try it with new people you meet.
Let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—